Paul Higham runs the rule over three tasty-looking Premier League games on Sunday, including the big one between Manchester United and Chelsea.
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Leicester v Wolves (1400 BST)
An interesting early sight of two teams tipped to be pushing the top six all the way, and a good test for Wolves in the first of many Thursday-Sunday game weeks after they played their Europa League qualifier all the way over in Armenia this week. It's a much shorter trip across the Midlands but a much bigger test.
Brendan Rodgers has lost Harry Maguire but has a number of exciting younger players and promising signings to call upon. Youri Tielemans looks the pick of them and he can hit the ground running after spending time on loan at the King Power last season.
This could be a cracker given how both sides like to play and, although Wolves have had a 4600-mile round trip they're also match sharp after a couple of Europe League games. It'll be interesting to see if that helps them finish the game stronger than an early-season Leicester side.
Home advantage makes the Foxes favourites, with Rodgers instilling a real sense of excitement and expectation among Leicester fans, but preference would be for a score draw that would send both managers home reasonably happy.
For a bet, Jamie Vardy has a superb opening day record and has also come alive under Rodgers, so he's the man to keep on side in this one. He's 32 now but has a couple more years at the top level in those tireless legs and with Tielemans and James Maddison in support, look to Leicester's star striker to get on the score sheet at odds-against.
Prediction: Leicester 2-2 Wolves (Sky Bet odds: 14/1)
Best bet: Jamie Vardy anytime scorer at 13/10
Key Opta stats
- Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers has drawn both of his Premier League meetings with Wolves (as Swansea manager in 2011-12). Wolves are one of just three teams Rodgers has faced but failed to beat in the competition (also Chelsea and Watford).
- Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has scored four goals in his last four Premier League opening weekend matches. Vardy has also scored 53% of Leicester’s Premier League goals under Brendan Rodgers (9/17).
Newcastle v Arsenal (1400 BST - Sky Sports Premier League)
Good luck predicting what we're going to get from these two this season!
The soap opera at St James' took an unexpected twist when returning hero Andy Carroll bagged an emotional homecoming after eight years away. As a free agent the deal didn't even have to be done on deadline day, but cynics will say the Mike Ashley PR machine wanted full exposure for the club's recapturing of a cult hero.
Whether that will stop the natives from getting restless is another story, and a boycott is planned for the Arsenal game which will make for a strange atmosphere and play into the hands of the Gunners and their ultra-attacking squad that should be bursting with goals this season.
It's a rare away day start for Arsenal as the fixtures computer has handed out home openers for the last seven years. But if they wanted one away trip it would be to a side they've beaten in 12 out of the last 13 meetings and they look one of the bankers of the weekend to start with a win, despite struggling on the road throughout last season.
David Luiz and Kieran Tierney should improve Arsenal's defence, albeit the latter is not yet available, though it could hardly get any worse after losing Laurent Koscielny. Record signing Joelinton adds to Newcastle's attacking options and it wouldn't be a surprise were they to contribute to a high-scoring game, one which the visitors really ought to win.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Arsenal (Sky Bet odds:12/1 )
Best bet: Arsenal to win at 17/20
Key Opta stats
- Arsenal have won 12 of their last 13 competitive fixtures against Newcastle United, losing only once in this run: 1-2 at St James’ Park in April 2018.
- Arsenal kept just one clean sheet in their 19 away league games last season (1-0 at Watford), with only 15th placed Burnley (36), 14th placed Bournemouth (45) and the bottom two clubs Fulham and Huddersfield (both 45) conceding more away goals than the Gunners last term (35).
Manchester United v Chelsea (1630 BST - Sky Sports Premier League)
It's a sign you're getting old when Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are in opposition dugouts instead of out on the pitch for United v Chelsea, in what is a fascinating Super Sunday opener between two teams whose young managers have pressure upon their shoulders even before a ball is kicked.
Being club legends gives them both more wiggle room than most, nevertheless this is a massive starting point and there could be a fair bit of tension in the air as both look to get off the mark at the earliest opportunity.
It's a sign of the times with the Red Devils that they're the biggest spenders in the transfer window having signed the world's most expensive defender, yet it'll still go down as a bad summer for most fans after missing out on other big-name targets.
With Chelsea under a transfer embargo, the youth players at both clubs have the chance to step up and show us what they're made of. And there's plenty of quality in both sides so there are no real excuses for them not pushing for top four spots at least.
This, then, is unlike previous Man Utd v Chelsea games with so many young and untested players set to be involved, and given the names in each dugout there should also be plenty of nerves, a few mistakes, and some goals at both ends, but the fancy here is for a touch of extra quality in midfield to get the job done for the visitors - just.
Watch out for N'Golo Kante's availability, and then his position on the field, as both are crucial aspects for Chelsea, but Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley certainly on paper have more control and talent than, say, a Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay midfield - even if you throw in Pogba if he's fit.
United are favourites here at 5/4, but it's Chelsea who can draw first blood and at upwards of 5/2 they're worth a small bet.
Prediction: Man Utd 1-2 Chelsea (Sky Bet odds: 11/1)
Key Opta stats
- Manchester United have won just two of their last 13 Premier League meetings with Chelsea (W2 D6 L5) but are unbeaten in six home games against them in the competition (W2 D4 L0).
- Manchester United have lost more Premier League games (18) and conceded more Premier League goals (71) against Chelsea than they have against any other team.
- This will be the first ever competitive meeting between Manchester United and Chelsea where both managers also previously played for their respective clubs.
Posted at 1555 BST on 09/08/19
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